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Just Plain Fiction

Hemmed In

This is my fourth "taster flight" of classic short stories, and it may be my favorite. This anthology has six classic short stories about women's lives. They are classics (and in the public domain), so all are old, but they resonate with my modern experience of being a woman surprisingly well. I defy any woman who has ever worked in a male-dominated field to read the first story in this book (A Jury of Her Peers, by Susan Glaspell) and not nod her head in recognition at times.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

Steps

Book cover for Steps: text with some small graphic elements

This is an interesting short story about a past-her-prime actress who is contacted by the family of her former stepfather. He is dying, and wants to see her. The story follows her response, and the emotions and memories it stirs up. It is a really well-written story. When I finished it, I first wished it would have resolved a few more things, but as it "settled" in my mind, I think that perhaps leaving those things unresolved was central to what it says about family and what we can expect from them.

Author: 

Mona Simpson

The Ruins

The Ruins book cover

This well-written novella is set in seventh century England, when the borders with Wales were still dangerous and a new religion called Christianity was starting to gain prominence among the ruling class. It is at its heart a coming of age story, about a young man sent from the borderlands to learn the ways of the court and the new religion. But it is also about how to find your way in a time of great change, and I always have a soft spot for stories set in times of great societal change.

Author: 

Daniel Bristow-Bailey

Spin-Off Cité

This short book of flash fiction is a wide-ranging, fun, and at times thought-provoking collection of snapshots of the human condition. If you like flash fiction, definitely check this one out. If you've never tried flash fiction, this is a good choice of a book to give it a try. The characters are sharply drawn, which is important is such short stories, and the stories themselves are interesting.

Author/Editor: 

Papatia Feauxzar

The Presence of Men

The Presence of Men book cover

This charming story is a fairly standard post-divorce "finding yourself" story, but the unusual characters and strong sense of place make it a standout example of the form, and also something a little more. Throughout the story, there are themes of the meaning of community and identity, and how these two things interrelate. In short, this is a good story, that you can read and enjoy just for the surface story, but if you're so inclined, it will leave you things to think about when you're done.

Author: 

Francesca Marciano

Small and Spooky

This is a collection of six classic short ghost stories. It is the third "taster flight" I've published via Annorlunda Books, and like the other two (Missed Chances and Love and Other Happy Endings), it has a unifying theme. In this case, the theme is that all of these ghost stories feature a child in some way, which I think gives a certain undertone of sweetness to the spooky stories.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

After the Beauties

After the Beauties book cover

This is a slightly surreal story, set on an island paradise that was "discovered" by the global 'in" crowd... then abandoned when a disease hit. Now, one islander is trying to find the lost dog of one of the rich former guests so that he can collect the reward money and maybe put his life back together, but a hurricane is coming. It is a thoroughly entertaining story that sneaks in a couple of things for you to think about while you're distracted by the action.

Author: 

Julia LoFaso

The September Letters

The September Letters book cover

This is a charming short story about strangers who happen to meet in an airport: a woman breaking up with her boyfriend, an older couple who help her, and the bartenders who witness it all. They decide to keep in touch and exchange letters once a year. This chance meeting and the subsequent letters catalyze change in all their lives, and the charm of the story is seeing how this change plays out.

Author: 

Maeve Binchy

Papercuts 1: The Dead and the Quick

Papercuts: The Dead and the Quick book cover

This is a delightful short book about a journalist who returns home to attend his first mentor's funeral, and finds himself caught up in the struggles of the local newspaper his mentor was running. The author has a background in crime writing. He has brought that fast-paced style to this story, and it works well. The characters and plot are both really enjoyable. My only complaint is that there is both a series of "Papercuts" stories and a novel-length book coming out later this year, and it is not immediately clear how they related.

Author: 

Colin Bateman

Seismic Shift

In the aftermath of an earthquake, a mother and father struggle to reach their young son. The mother also finds herself on a journey through memories long buried, which might shed some light on her failing marriage. The external events add extra drama to what is essentially an internal plot of coming to understand the reasons for your own emotions.

Author: 

Carolyn Nash

Satya

Satya book cover

This short story does a great job of transporting the reader into the weird, liminal space of a first pregnancy. The main character hasn't found her footing yet, and neither does the reader, really. Despite leaving you feeling slightly off balance, the story is enjoyable to read.

Author: 

Jessica Pishko

The Other Week

The Other Week book cover

This is a quirky and fun story, with a little more going on than first meets the eye. The central theme is life's surprises, and the various ways we respond and keep going in the face of those surprises, but the characters are so interesting that it is easy to overlook the theme and just enjoy the story.

Author: 

Joy Williams

Love and Other Happy Endings

This is a collection of five classic short stories that have a "happy ending." They are all love stories, but they are quite different from each other, ranging from humorous (Akin to Love) to heartwarming (The Other Man's Wife) to a bit bittersweet (Head and Shoulders). This is the second "taster flight" of classic short stories that I have published via my Annorlunda Books imprint. (The first was Missed Chances.) Once again, I really enjoyed reading the stories over and over as I prepared the book.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

Villa Bohème

Villa Boheme book cover

This is a fun and entertaining story that will also leave you thinking about how our lives can land us in places we never expected to be, and how much control we do or do not have over that process. The main character is a teenage boy, just starting to figure out what sort of person he wants to be. He is a likeable lead character, but the real insights come from contrasting him with the adults who make up the rest of the cast.

Author: 

Kevin A. González

A Market Tale

A Market Tale book cover

This charming story is written in the world of a larger mystery series, but is not itself a mystery. There is a love interest, but it isn't really a love story, either. It is a character-driven peak into life in the French countryside, and it is a delight to read.

Author: 

Martin Walker

Missed Chances

Long time readers are probably familiar with the "taster flights" I post here from time to time. I decided to take that concept a step further and produce a "taster flight" book. The result is Missed Chances: Short Love Stories with a Hint of What Might Have Been. This is a collection of five classic love stories that all feature "the one that got away" in some fashion. They range from humorous (Aunt Philippa and the Men, by L.M.

Author/Editor: 

M.R. Nelson

Cafe Deux Mondes

Cafe Deux Mondes book cover

Two women from very different backgrounds meet, become friends, and somehow decide to open a restaurant. This is a story about friendship, and how it can grow between people who don't seem to have much in common, and it is a story about the value of doing somewhat audacious things. At its heart, though, it is the story about two women you'll wish you could meet, and a restaurant you'll wish you could visit.

Author: 

Catherine Browder

Full House

Full House book cover

This is a quick-reading novella about a woman who is feeling taken for granted by her adult children, who are still living in their modest family home in Dublin. Binchy has a knack for capturing everyday life, and this book is no exception, which makes it an enjoyable read even though sometimes the story feels like more of a sketch than a fully formed story. When it is a sketch, it is at least a very good sketch!

Author: 

Maeve Binchy

The Nun, The Gun, and Tom Mix

The Nun, The Gun, and Tom Mix book cover

The plot of this charming novella sounds surreal when summarized: a somewhat unsuccessful American man whose mother always told him that his father was Tom Mix falls in love with the music of a Mexican band called Los Gatos Negros, and when he hears that they are in danger from the drug cartels, decides to head to Mexico to rescue them. Meanwhile, the head nun in a convent in a little Mexican town is struggling to deal with the departure of their priest, and the head of one of the drug cartels is longing to leave that all behind and live the life of an artist.

Author: 

Suda J. Prohaska

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

The Perilous Life of Jade Yeo

The plot of this story is fun, but the real charm is the lead character, who is well-drawn, believable, and downright delightful. Jade Yeo is an ambitious young writer, recently arrived from Malaysia, and working to make a life for herself in London. This is a romance story set in 1920s London, and like many romances, there is some sex- but if that is not your thing, you can easily skip that scene.

Author: 

Zen Cho

The Life in Papers of Sofie K

The Life in Papers of Sofie K.

This fascinating story follows the life of a young Russian girl in the 1800s who has a love of mathematics. She persists despite society's obstacles and studies mathematics at a German university, before finally ending up as a professor in Sweden. It is based on the life of Sofia Kovalevskaya, and is organized around her papers. The writing is engaging and almost lyrical at times, and the story has fantastical elements, making this more of an exploration of the motivations and costs of circumventing society's obstacles than a simple fictionalized biographical sketch.

Author: 

Octavia Cade

Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You

The stories in this collection all feature women whose hopes and dreams are in some way thwarted by the circumstances of life. Given that, there is a melancholy feeling to the stories, but also a beauty, as Munro masterfully captures the spirit that allows her main characters to endure and even at times thrive.

Author/Editor: 

Alice Munro

Scales Beneath My Skin

Scales Beneath My Skin book cover

This is a story of a young Hawaiian girl growing up and learning her family's secrets, but also of making peace with the past and the danger in refusing to do so. It is a beautifully told story with a strong sense of place, interesting characters, and a thread of Hawaiian mythology woven in.

Author: 

Ka'ili Marie Britos

Old Girls in Low Cotton

Old Girls in Low Cotton

A bittersweet but funny story about a woman who sets out to start over after her husband is killed, but finds herself sharing a trailer with her mother-in-law instead. The characters are believable and ultimately likable, the sort you wish you could reach into the book and help sort through the mess they're making.

Author: 

Helen Childress

The Man Who Owns Little

The Man Who Owns Little book cover

This is an epistolary story examining the end of a friendship between two men. Pothier has a genius for portraying the difficulties and beauty of human relationships, and this story does not disappoint in that regard.

Author: 

Mark Ernest Pothier

Monstress

The stories in this collection are about the Filipino experience, both in the US and in the Philippines. They tend to examine the darker side of this experience, but they often include a glimmer of hope, where the reader can see a path forwards to happiness that the characters could take. The writing is beautiful, and the author's insights into human nature are keen, and focused on characters and aspects of life that we often overlook.

Author/Editor: 

Lysley Tenorio

Normally Special

The stories in this collection are mostly dark, and often disturbing, but they are always compelling. They explore how people react to difficult situations, and the characters' reactions are far from perfect. But the characters are more believable for this, and the sympathy with which they are treated ultimately makes this collection less dark than a summary of the stories would imply.

Author/Editor: 

xTx

The Last Black Man

The Last Black Man

This is a gripping and harrowing story about a successful British man attending his first polo match. No, really, it is- because the successful man is the black son of working class parents whose sacrifices he is only now understanding, and whose life is not at all as secure and idyllic as it seems. The action in this masterfully told story is primarily in the protagonist's head, and the result is a story I will not soon forget.

Author: 

M. B. Munroe

Assumptions

Assumptions

This is an enjoyable short story about growing up and losing your illusions about the world and the grown ups who live in it.

Author: 

James Mulhern

The Lone Ranger and Tonto Fistfight in Heaven

This is a wonderful collection of loosely linked stories each showing an aspect of life on the Spokane Indian Reservation. The stories vary in tone and focus, but are all moving and well-written, with characters you'll care about.

Author/Editor: 

Sherman Alexie

Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula

Three Things You Should Know About Peggy Paula

A simple, heartbreaking, and beautifully written story about a woman whose life has not turned out the way she had hoped.

Author: 

Lindsay Hunter

Ayiti

The stories in this collection paint portraits of varied aspects of Haitian life. They are powerful, sometimes hauntingly beautiful, and always well-written. Although each story stands on its own, they combine to something more than disparate stories, creating very moving and satisfying book.

Author/Editor: 

Roxane Gay

Pleased to Be Otherwise

Pleased to Be Otherwise

This is a quirky coming of age story in which it is not just the main character (Timi, a teenager in Uzbekistan) who learns some life lessons. Timi's village has been the recipient of a gift of camels from a Western aid organization- and the camel-related hijincks are only one source of laughs. There's also a Mexican soap opera dubbed into Uzbek and the general randomness of life.

Author: 

Gina Ochsner

The First Light of Evening

A sweet and bittersweet story about a man who finds himself alone when he never expected to be, and has to figure out what to do next and who he really is. There are moments of real beauty in this story, and perhaps some notes of warning, too.

Author: 

Mark Ernest Pothier

Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

Mrs. Vargas and the Dead Naturalist

A woman prepares for an important visitor, and the visitor is not as expected. Note that this story can also be bought as part of a collection of the same name.

Author: 

Kathleen Alcalá

Dead Pig Collector

Dead Pig Collector book cover

An oddly appealing story about an extremely professional hit man and what happens when his latest job takes an unexpected turn.

Author: 

Warren Ellis

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